Wednesdays racing doesn’t quite have the same glamour as the Prix Rothschild card at Deauville, but there is a very entertaining card in store at Le Lion D’angers, with the famous Cross-country taking centre stage for the 2nd race. Away from that we have some decent 3-year-old races on the flat and some very competitive handicaps to round off the action. The racing begins at 11:00 with an AQPS bumper over 12-furlongs, but with very little form to go on and no obvious winners amongst the pedigrees of the debutantes, I’ll just watch this one.
Race 2 at 11:30 is over the famous Cross-Country track, including the 30-foot high bank, which always takes some negotiating. This race is for the 5 and 6-year-olds over just shy of 3 miles and we have several horses making their cross-country debuts. The most interesting of these would be Gasconne from the Leenders yard. She has achieved an official rating of 50 over regulation fences and has the services of Felix de Giles who rides this track very well. She was last seen finishing 6th in a decent chase at Dieppe in mid-July, where she made the running before tiring in the closing stages. It is interesting to see her connections sending her into the Cross-Country sphere at such a young age and she does receive a lot of weight from some of the principles, but I can’t ignore a career record of 0-11 over obstacles and this will most likely come too soon. The yard also run Fatines, who is a talented filly, but has developed a nasty habit of falling or unseating and at a track like this where jumping is so important, she is far too much of a risk to consider.
Many of these horses do have plenty of experience running in Cross-Country races in the provinces. The likes of Urbok, Gala Speed, Faddex and A Corps Perdu have run well in this discipline in 2021, though I think it is important to note that those runs have come at provincial tracks in much weaker races than this.
Any selection in a cross-country race always comes with the risk that your horse may not get round so it would never be a certainty, but assuming they get round the track I believe this race to be between 2 of the runners, Elcond’or Forlonge and Flashkille. Eclond’or Forlonge was a very impressive winner on his first Cross-Country start at Saint-Pierre-La-Cour on 14th July, when he produced a flawless display of jumping and came away to win by 7-lengths. That was a very impressive start and there is no doubt that he has further improvement in him, but in Flashkille, he meets a much more talented rival than he has previously encountered and even getting 4-kilos from him, he may struggle to go with him.
I would normally steer clear from backing a horse with a career record of 0-11, who has fallen on both of his last 2 starts, however, I think Flashkille is the best horse in this race and so the main risk with the selection is that he will get round the track. He is an enthusiastic front runner, who had the race won here on 26th June when he mis-judged the last and unseated his rider, whilst last time out he stumbled on the way down the bank in the early stages and was pulled up by his rider. There was clearly nothing too serious in that as he has been turned out again just 2 weeks later. Jonathan Plouganou (of Easysland fame) returns to take this ride, having ridden him once before when he finished 3rd at Pau in the winter time and this does look to be the weakest race he has contested so far. If he gets round the course and that is an If, I think he will have far too much class for this line up.
Race 3 at 12:00 is the feature, with a Class 1 conditions race for the 3-year-olds over 7-furlongs. I have poured over this race for at least an hour and have come to the conclusion that any of the 7 could win so it’s not a race I will be playing in. However, I do think the official French ratings are wrong. The top rated horses, Ludo and Crowdfunding, achieved their ratings earlier in the campaign and as such are flattered to be rated in the mid 40s. Both Ad Merraj and Maple Biscuit look to be on a very steep upward curve and by the end of the year, I would imagine that they will both be contesting Group races, but this looks a trappy contest so it is just a watching brief for me.
At 1:41 we have the first of the handicaps and this looks to be a fantastic opportunity for L’air du Temps. Unexposed after just 5 starts, I am convinced that this horse is much better than his official mark of 32 would suggest. He finished 4th last-time out on his handicap debut at Chantilly, finishing within 3 lengths of the winner, The Lawyer, a very talented horse who has won again since and is now rated 40. On that evidence alone, L’air du Temps would look to be well treated here and this looks like an ideal chance to get his first win on the board.
The card finishes with a competitive Class 4 handicap over 7-furlongs. Races in the bottom grades always need to be approached carefully as the horses are running at this level for a reason, however, there is a horse in here that stands out for me, Goutte de Lune. Trained by Christophe Plisson she has chased home her stablemate Beacon Towers on 2 of her last 3 starts, including here on 13th July. Last week they met at Saint-Malo and were engaged in a long battle in the home straight where she went down by a neck, though they pulled a full 4 lengths clear of the 3rd. She is able to race here off the same mark and with her stablemate out of the way she should finally get a chance to get her head back in front. Although she is turned out just 7 days after her last start, she is vastly experienced and has a good record of backing up one good performance with another so I am not too worried about the lack of a break between runs.
In truth, as with many Class 4 races, this won’t take too much winning and there aren’t many runners to have a lot of confidence in. There are a couple of others to mention though, Arel Nova and Lefkada. Arel Nova is a Spanish raider from the Delcher Sanchez team. He is a very shrewd trainer and has a knack of finding races in France that his horses can win, but Arel Nova has just 1 win from 15 starts and that was in a claimer in the provinces. He did back up that win in April by running well in another claimer at Les Sables in May when he was last seen, finishing 2nd to Gymkhana. In the context of this race that form is not too bad, but carrying top weight in a deeper contest than he is used to would be enough to put me off, especially as he has never made the frame in his 6 starts in handicap company.
Lefkada should really be better than this level. She comes from a decent family and although she is 0-12, she has placed 7 times and does seem to run to a fairly consistent level. Now it’s not that hard to oppose a 12-race maiden, but I think the bigger issue is the turf. Her best efforts have all come on the all-weather and she doesn’t look the same horse on the grass. Even though her best turf effort came at this track when she was 2nd in this grade on 26th June, that race did seem to be run to suit and on the balance of her turf form, I can’t see her getting her head in front.
Goutte de Lune has looked like a winner in waiting throughout July and looks to have been found the ideal opportunity to get back to winning ways.